Rights Groups Slam Singapore’s Planned Execution of Drug Trafficker

Capital punishment is still on the books in the Southeast Asian country.
September 15, 2020, 11:59am
death penalty, Singapore
An Amnesty International activist puts up posters opposing Singapore's death penalty. Photo: AFP

Singapore will execute a convicted drug trafficker by hanging this week, rights groups and anti-death penalty advocates said, slamming the Southeast Asian country’s “callous” use of capital punishment.

According to high court documents, Syed Suhail bin Syed Zin, 44, was arrested in August 2011 and convicted of drug trafficking charges five years later - on January 26, 2016. He was then sentenced to the mandatory death penalty.

He is expected to be executed by hanging on Friday, September 18. Representatives from the Singapore Prison Services did not respond immediately to requests for comment from VICE News.

Drug trafficking is illegal in Singapore, a wealthy city-state which credits its low crime reputation with a hardline zero-tolerance policy for illicit drugs.

Hundreds of people, including foreigners, have been hanged in Singapore over the years for drug-related offences even as executions in other Southeast Asian countries have declined.

In May, authorities controversially sentenced a 37-year-old Malaysian man to death by Zoom call after he was found guilty of trafficking heroin in 2011 - and later defended the unconventional remote procedure as being “necessary for the safety of all involved in the proceedings”.

Human Rights Watch’s Phil Robertson called the expected execution this week “barbaric” and said the sentence should be commuted.

Singapore is one of only four countries that still execute people for drug-related offenses, according to research conducted by Amnesty International.

Chiara Sangiorgio, Amnesty’s death penalty advisor, said that Syed Suhail bin Syed Zin’s family was told the execution would be carried out Friday and they were asked to make funeral arrangements.

“The authorities must immediately halt this callous hanging,” Sangiorgio said in a statement.

Activists in the city-state also condemned the decision.

We Believe In Second Chances, a group in Singapore that advocates for the abolishment of the death penalty, said that Syed Suhail would not be able to see his relatives in Malaysia given the border closures due to the pandemic.

“We are dismayed to hear about the imminent execution of Syed Suhail,” a representative told VICE News. “We reiterate that the death penalty is a cruel, inhumane, and irreversible punishment and there is no evidence that it works more effectively than any other punishment to deter crime.”